Developing Your Proposal
The CFGR Director can assist as you develop your proposal and budget. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
I. Get in the grant writing frame of mind
Before you begin writing your proposal, remember that a grant proposal is distinctive from other types of scholarly writing and may require you to adjust your mindset.
- Keep the audience in mind. Reviewers will use only the information contained in the application to assess the application. Therefore, make sure that the application and responses to the program requirements are complete and clearly written. Keep the review criteria in mind when writing the application.
- Start preparing the application early. If applying electronically through Grants.gov or other electronic application system, please ensure that adequate time is allotted to register and download applicable software and forms. Grants.gov offers a "Webcast" (registration required) entitled "Get Started with Grants.gov" that provides startup requirements and tips.
- Follow the instructions and application guidance carefully. The instructions call for a particular organization of the materials, and reviewers are accustomed to finding information in specific places. Present information according to the prescribed format.
- Be brief, concise, and clear. Make each point understandable. Avoid long sentences and paragraphs. Provide accurate information, including candid accounts of problems and realistic plans to address them. If any required information or data is omitted, explain why. Make sure the information provided in each table, chart, or attachment is consistent with the information contained in other parts of the proposal.
- Be careful in the use of appendices. Do not use the appendices for information that is required in the body of the application. Be sure to cross-reference all tables and attachments located in the appendices to the appropriate text in the application.
- Carefully proofread the application. Grammatical errors and 'typos' will erode reviewers perception and evaluation of the application. Be sure pages are numbered (including appendices) and that page limits are followed. Limit the use of abbreviations and acronyms, and define each one at its first use and periodically throughout application.
- Be Realistic. Remember that you will have to follow through on any methodologies described or claims made in your proposal. Be realistic about the feasibility of your project and the time and effort required for the work proposed.
- Review Sample Grant Proposals. Some federal agencies will provide examples of proposals that have been funded. The CFR Director can provide samples of successful grant proposals for your review.
- Utilize Peer Review. Have someone from outside your discipline read your proposal for general ease of understanding, but also have someone within your discipline read your proposal for content and methodology.
II. Drafting the proposal
Most funders have a prescribed format for preparing proposals, or they may have a series of questions that will need to be addressed. Generally, proposals contain several key sections:
Assessment of Need. Concisely identify the problem your proposal addresses and why your work is necessary. Consider the following: What needs to be improved or strengthened? What is missing from the body of knowledge? What created this need? Who is affected by this problem? Many grant-worthy ideas are not driven by problem-solving but rather by intellectual curiosity or visionary creativity. Do not be deterred by a grant application that may contain a requirement for defining a problem or addressing a need. Instead frame your answer to reflect how you may be, for example, building on the body of knowledge in your discipline or advancing a creative approach to learning.
Organization Information. Provide a brief summary of Saint Mary's history, mission, goals, relevant programs and enrollment numbers. Contact the Office of Institutional Research for statistical information on the College. The CFGR Director can also provide organizational information.
Project Goals and Objectives. Keep your goals and objectives as outcome-based as possible. Most funders want to see measurable outcomes. Consider using a bulleted list to highlight the importance of each goal and objective.
Methodology or Approach. Outline how you will accomplish your goals and objectives. Prepare a work plan and timeline. Provide evidence of long range planning. Be as specific as possible.
Budget. Provide a detailed budget as well as a budget justification that explains how you will use requested funds. Visit the pages on Developing your Budget and Budget Justification for additional information on budget development.
Evaluation Plan. Explain how you plan to assess the efficacy of your proposed work. Many grantors request that an evaluation be conducted, sometimes by an external source. The Office of Institutional Research can also be requested to evaluate your project. Evaluations might involve collecting survey data, engaging in focus groups or conducting site visits.
III. Preparing necessary attachments
Beyond the project narrative, you will often be required to submit additional information such as CVs, letters of support, evidence of tax exemption, etc. Pay attention to details such as consistent formatting and proof the attachments as carefully as the core narrative. Plan ahead to request letters of support or other supporting documents, especially if partnership agreements with outside entities are planned for your project. These matters take time and are dependent on the schedules and availability of various individuals or institutions that may not be able to respond on short notice.
Plan to submit your final proposal to the CFR Director at least 4 days prior to the grant submittal deadline for two reasons: 1) to allow time for securing final internal approvals, and 2) to address any complications that may arise during the submittal process.
Most government funding agencies and many foundations now require electronic submission of proposals. These systems are not always reliable. Although funders are responsive to addressing any "bugs" in their electronic submittal processes, delays are fairly common. Submitting early provides time to address any complications should they arise.
Below are links to other proposal writing guides:
- A Guide for Proposal Writing (pdf) from the National Science Foundation